When I was a kid I always thought it was cool to listen to my parents and especially my grandparents talk about the good old days.
When they talked about the good old days they meant the 30's and 40's. I would listen to the stories about rationing during the depression and World War II. Not that those were good times mind you but they would sentimentally reminisce about the days when your only entertainment would come via the radio.
Yes I am sure those were nostalgic times for them.
I was thinking the other day, while making one bad Skagit cast after another, on one of my favorite winter steelhead streams about my good old days of fishing here in the Pacific Northwest.
I'm talking about about the early 70's specifically because that is when I first picked up a fishing rod to pursue the salmon, steelhead and trout of this region.
Back in those days there was no internet! If you were pursuing winter steelhead you had to pay close attention to the river levels much like today. The difference, of course, was not a mouse click away like it is today. There was a number you called to get the latest river levels. More times than not the information was not real up to date so you watched the weather forecast and took your chances. Hey it worked too! We hooked a lot of steelhead back in those days. Those good old days were filled with anticipation of a Saturday trip after a long week of work. We boraxed our roe back then because the new super cures were not yet invented. I loved the after Thanksgiving tackle sales where I could stock up on all the gear I would need for the winter.
The reel of choice was the old ABU Ambassadeur level winds that could throw a birds nest big enough for an eagle to nest in. Very seldom did we use spinning rods for our winter steelheading.
Of course the Holy Grail of steelhead rods was the Fenwick FS83C. This brown fiberglass rod was the desire for all serious steelheaders and the $49.95 price tag was out of reach for most of us blue collar guys.
Hey we even read Fishing and Hunting news to get the latest "Metalhead" reports! I sometimes miss that outdated rag.
Then there was the fly fishing world of nearly forty years ago. It was pretty common to find Leonard Duracane or Orvis bamboo rods at most fly shops back then. Hardy reels were also very commonplace too. Graphite was still in it's infancy back then but it was pretty easy to build your own rod out of the best Lamiglas fiberglass blanks.
Jim Teeny was taking the fly fishing world by storm with his epic 16mm films of East Lake in Central Oregon. We salivated about those big rainbows and browns of the Newberry Crater lakes. We all tied counterfeit "Teeny Nymphs" but of course never realized the success of Teeny....wonder why?
Back in those days the Deschutes was still a legendary summer steelhead river and I remember how terrified I was of a potential but ultimately unlikely encounter with a Deschutes rattlesnake. This fear was something my older fishing partners had a lot of fun with.Speaking of legends the master of dry line steelhead fly Fishing, Bill McMillan could be found along the Washougal river back then. I would marvel at his sophisticated but aloof approach to steelhead on a fly.
Bill Bakke was around back then too.We mostly thought his ideas on wild fish conservation were pretty far fetched and over our heads. Bill's hair and beard were still red back then too! Little did we know that the vision of guys like Bakke and McMillan laid the ground work for wild salmonid conservation today.
I was young and impressionable back then and now I am just old and jaded.
While the world wide web has brought a vast amount of information to our computer screens I think it has hurt our resource also. There is no "paying your dues" anymore when it comes to learning to be an angler as most new guys do not have the patience to learn the right way. Of course fishing ethics has not made the transition to the 21st century all that well either and it shows.
Salmon and steelhead seem to be more of a commodity these days with the internet forums where one can post a myriad of photos of his/her heroic piscatorial conquests to the adulation of the cyber world masses.
On a positive note, modern conservation science has made great strides in recognizing the perils our coldwater fisheries face and how to best deal with those perils. Enlightened conservation groups are working hard to make a difference.
So while I miss some aspects of those good old days I am glad of what I've learned over the years. I've matured into someone who thinks wild salmon, trout and steelhead are pretty damn important.
This is a picture of me from 1974 holding my first winter steelhead caught on the Sandy river. A spawner female shooting single eggs!!! That rod was made by me also. Wow things sure have changed haven't they?